What is Routing?

Routing is a powerful method to connect to individuals, repeaters or groups on a D-STAR network.

How does Routing work?

Routing is a connectionless protocol that does not require a Hosts.txt file to to connect. The QuadNet network server does all the heavy lifting for you. You just have to program your radio with the routes you want to use. If there is an individual or STARnet Group on the QuadNet network, you should be able to route there just by knowing the call sign, or in the case of Group Routing, a "subscribe call".

What are the different kinds of Routing?

There are three kinds of routing:

  1. Callsign Routing is used to make a person to person connection. Just program you radio's YourCall (UR) with the call sign of the person you want to contact. QuadNet will look up the last repeater that call sign used and direct your voice data to that repeater. After announce yourself with with something like "This is A1AAA call sign routing to B2BBB", your contact can program his radio to Call Sign Route back to you. When you Call Sign Route, your radio will provide addition audio prompts that let you know you're doing something special. This may be a different tone beep, or a ringing tone that sounds like an old-fashioned telephone ringing.
  2. Zone Routing or sometimes called Repeater Routing will route you voice stream directly to a repeater on the network. You would not usually use this directly. Zone routes are performed by putting the callsign of the module in the URCall field of your radio, preceded by a fore-slash, "/". Of course the extra chaacter in front means you have remove a space before the module suffix: "WA2WWW C" becomes "/WA2WWWC". Most importantly, zone routing is used by routing group servers. You should probably never do zone routing manually. Why? Because it's one way. If you zone route to a reapeater, hams listening on that repeater will hear you, but you won't hear them!
  3. Group Routing means routing to a STARnet Digital Group or a Smart Group Server. A routing group is kind of like a reflector, but it is actually more like a repeater without the RF transceiver. A routing group can have many individual users "subscribed" to it. Anyone subscribed to a group will hear all traffic on the Group. Like a repeater, a routing group can be linked to a reflector. To listen to a group, just program your radio's UR field with the group's subscription callsign. The main QuadNet Smart Group is called "DSTAR1" "DSTAR2", they both connect to the same channel. Key you transmitter and when you get a confirmation on your radio, you will be connected. Now leave the subscribe call in you UR field and when you key up, you transmission data will go to the Group and then be redistributed to all the other subscribers. You disconnect with another "unsubscribe" callsign. You can disconnect from DSTAR1 with "DSTAR1 T", or "DSTAR2 T" will disconnect you from DSTAR2.

Routing groups are very interesting. All the time you are using a routing group, you are using both one-to-one Callsign Routing and one-to-many Zone Routing! When you transmit to a routing group, the callsign of the group is in the URCall of your radio. That is a one-to-one Callsign Route. When you first subscribe, the routing group will send you a one-to-one reply. This will trigger the special audio prompt on your radio to help let you know you are logged in. Likewise when you logout of a routing group, the group will reply with a one-to-one voice stream with a message to let you know you an no longer logged into the group. However, once you are subscribed, when anybody on the group keys up, the group will use Zone routing to relay that voice stream to you. At this point you might ask, "Why don't routing groups use callsign routing to send a voice stream to me?" Because DStar radios will alert you most every time it receives a callsign route, which means that your radio would be ringing every time someone talked. Using Zone routing avoids that special response. It's an extremely efficient and clever way to implement a routing group using the two other methods of routing.

I've never heard of any of this. Is D-Star Routing New? Who invented it?

Callsign and Zone Routing have been around since the earliest days of D-Star. It was built into the earliest networks in Japan. If you bought a D-Star ICOM radio new, you probably received a "D-STAR MANUAL" with your radio that discusses these two forms of routing. This manual discusses which buttons you press to do Callsign or Zone Routing, but are a bit short on why you would want to do Routing and how the D-Star system performs these routes. Hopefully, information here will greatly help with that. Group Routing is the new kid on the block having been introduced around 2011, and only available on IRCDDB networks. It was an idea originally conceived by John Hays, K7VE, and he called STARnet Digital and it was first implemented by Jonathan Naylor, G4KLX, as the StarNetServer. It's a brilliant idea and a logical next step into the evolution of routing on a D-Star network. Our new Smart Group Server takes this idea one step further by integrating the Group Server into our IRCDDB network.

I heard that routing was bad. Why does QuadNet allow it?

Routing is not bad! Like any powerful tool, it can be troublesome if improperly used. Call Sign Routing is the most potentially disrupting form of routing but there is a proper way to do it. Call Sign Routing requires "situational awareness" and what we mean by that is you need to know that you won't be disturbing an already in-progress discussion on your repeater or the repeater that your contact is connected to. Remeber that when you route, your voice stream will be directed to last known module that your target used. As a beginner, you should limit your Call Sign Routing to when both you and your contact are using personal hot-spots. If you are sure you and your contact are both using hot-spots, give it a try. When you make your initial announcement, give your target contact time to unlink if he was linked to something and time to program his radio with his Call Sign Rout back to you. On modern radios there is usually a key to program the return route: on an ID31 or ID-51, that key is called "RX→CS". That button label means you want to Call Sign Route using the last received transmission. In other words, you want to take the MyCall (MY) field from the last received transmission and put it in the UR field of your radio.

So in review, zone Routing should usually not be done directly. It's use is most suitably used by a routing group. Group Routing is the safest routing mode. Try subscribing to DSTAR1 or DSTAR2! Listen for traffic.

Is there anyway me doing group routing can cause someone else problems?

As long as you're using your hot-spot, you're pretty safe from causing any problem for anyone else. However, there are some situations you can get into when you do routing that might make you unpopular with your fellow hams, and all of these scenarios involve using public repeaters. Please not that the scenarios below are only a problem if the public repeater(s) involved are also clients on the IRCDDB openquad.net network.

It's a bad idea to initiate a Callsign Route to another ham unless you are using your own personal hot-spot and you know your target is currently using their personal hot-spot. If your callsign route happens to use a public repeater, anyone else listening to the repeater will only hear half the conversation. A callsign route that involves a public repeater may interrupt a QSO already taking place on that repeater. Using group routing on a public repeater can also be troublesome for others that want to use the repeater. If you subscribe to a routing group using a public repeater, other users listening to the repeater will not hear you, they will only hear the traffic on the subscribed routing group. If you should turn off you radio without logging off the routing group, problems ensue. The routing group will continue to route all traffic to the repeater you last used until you've timed out on that routing group! There is no easy way for hams on that repeater, or even the repeater's admin to stop that routing traffic. The message here: If you are using a public repeater, make sure you unsubscribe when you are done!

This kind of problem can sneak up on you in unexpected ways because of the way IRCDDB tracks you to achieve a feature called "follow me". Follow me means that once you are subscribed to a routing group, you can change the repeater you are using and the smart group will automatically re-route any traffic to the last repeater you were heard on. Here is just one scenario where this will get you into trouble: Let's say you are using your hot-spot in your home and subscribed to routing group. Then you decide to go shopping. You get into your car and drive downtown. Maybe you've forgotten about the fact that you were routing on your home hot-spot. Then, while driving, you hear someone on your mobile radio using a local public repeater that you've been want to talk to, so you key up and have a quick QSO with your friend. When you are done, you arrive at your destination and you get out of your car to start shopping. Traffic on any of the groups to which you were subscribed will be routed to that public repeater you last used. Other hams on that repeater will hear the routed traffic, but they won't be able to shut it down. The message here is the same as above: make sure you unsubscribe from a routing group when you are done!

I have some really great ideas for using a routing group! How can I have my own Group?

The Jonathan Naylor (G4KLX) software, ircDDBGateway, supports a mini-STARnet Server with up to five different groups. Just configure them and go. Be sure you check the routing groups page first to be sure that the name of your Group(s) is/are not already being used! If ircDDBGateway was compiled with the appropriate switches, you mini-STARnet Group channels can be linked to a XRF or DCS reflector.

A full STARnet Group Server is also available from Jonathan. Another, newer, smarter server has been developed especially for use on the QuadNet network, if interested, see N7TAE's git hub repository. Please be aware that these routing group servers require a unique QuadNet login callsign and they need to be running on a unique IP address. All nodes on our IRCDDB server need a legal callsign, usually a club callsign is used for these full servers. (Note that the ircDDBGateway mini-STARnet Server doesn't need a unique login or IP address. The ircDDBGateway program will share the QuadNet connection between the STARnet Server and the Gateway).

If you want to set up a STARnet Group with some ham-oriented theme that would appeal to a broad audience, let us know, we might be interested in hosting it on one of our servers. We would be especially interested if your group was about developing or promoting routing!

How does Routing differ from linking?

Linking is a connection-based protocol. You have to link to a repeater or a reflector before you can use that node. You can, in general, only link to a single node. In contrast, you can subscribe to several routing groups. When you are connect to multiple groups, you will hear traffic from every group. If you are familiar with the way the DMR works, this is very similar to have multiple talk groups in your receive group. When you key up your radio, your voice will only go to the Group in you UR field. Subscribing to several groups at the same time works best when the groups are relatively quite.

This sound like fun. What software should I use?

Most good software packages are based on programs that Jonathan Naylor, G4KLX wrote, either the multi-mode-digital-voice, MMDVMHost/IRCDDBGateway combination, or the older DStarRepeater/IRCDDBGateway combination. If you are new to this, look at the PiStar software. PiStar supports most of the devices listed on our home page. This includes both the single-board-computers (SBC) that PiStar supports and radio modems that handle the RF. If you have a Raspberry Pi and one of the supported devices, you can download an image, burn it to an SD card, plug in the card and power up the Raspberry Pi. Then just use a browser from a computer on the same network to configure PiStar. You'll be up and running in no time!

Tom N7TAE has a build-yourself IRCDDB gateway, QnetGateway. This is not a turnkey system like PiStar and requires some familiarity with the Linux operating system to download, compile, configure and install, but detailed instructions are included along with two different scripts that simplify the configuration and installation tasks. QnetGateway has a couple of special features especially for routing and is also a good choice for mobile users. In the old days, hams built their own radios. That's much harder to do in this digital and integrated circuit age, but you can still build your own software, if you are so inclined.

Okay, what else do I need to know?

If you want to be able to receive one-to-one Callsign Routing requires access to UDP port 40000. This port is usually closed on most home networks, so you have to configure your network to forward that to your hot-spot. You might not have to do anything if your home router uses uPnP. See the "Port Forwarding" section on the MAIN page for more details. We've heard several reports that some users don't have to do any home network port forwarding. It seems the common circumstances are that these users are on very modern networks with the latest home network routers. If this describes your situation, try routing without configuring any port forwarding.

Can I do routing from my mobile hot-spot?

Unfortunately Callsign Routing can't be done from a mobile rig. You gateway software is not intelligent enough to handle routing through a phone network. If you and your target are both using QnetGateway, it has some experimental code in it that may allow you to do this. Smart Groups are accessible from a mobile hot-spot. Unlike the legacy STARnet Digital Groups, Smart Groups can be used from a mobile hot-spot (like a hot-spot using a smart-phone for its Internet connection). Routing has a significant advantage for mobile users because it's simpler to get connected to your friends and start talking!

There is one potential problem with Group Routing from a mobile hot-spot: Cellphone based networks are constantly changing ports for their clients. Smart groups will handle this very well but legacy STARnet groups don't do so well. In addition if you travel far enough, you mobile system can also get assigned a new IP address. Be aware that when this happens, you will temporarily lose connection to the Quadnet server, once your IRCDDB client reconnects to the network, your gateway's new IP address will be announced to the network and you should quickly regain any group subscriptions.

I'd like to try Routing, but I am afraid of making a mistake. Can you help?

Absolutely! At QuadNet, we strongly believe in the experimental nature of ham radio. Making a mistake along the path to learning is part of the process. If you really don't want to try Routing without some hand-holding, link up to XRF757C and talk to us. There is usually someone around that can help. We also can provide other options to communicate, if your still in the "What do I need?" phase. See the getting started page.

I won't ever use Routing. Can I still use QuadNet?

Yes, you can. We won't stop you, but we're not sure why you would want to. You don't need an IRCDDB network if all you are going to do is to link to reflectors. You just need the IP address of the reflectors in you system's *_Hosts.txt files. Your kind of missing the whole point of QuadNet if you don't do any routing. You can route to other hams, repeaters and Groups, and you don't need to know their IP addresses. The QuadNet Routing Network tells your system where to find them. It knows what IP addresses they are at because they are connected to the QuadNet Network. If your sure that you never will route to anything (or some of your friends will never route to you), just leave the ircddb network field in your software blank. You don't need us.

But we hope you will remember us when a reflector that you use changes its IP address and you can no longer link to it. As you trying to remember where those Host.txt files are, and what the heck is the new IP address of that reflector, you might think, "Isn't there a better way to do this?" Well, yes, there is.

Why did QuadNet create the Smart Group Server and how is it different from a STARnet Digital Server?

From the users perspective, they have exactly the same function: You route Callsign route your voice data into a group and it re-routes your transmission to everyone subscribed to that group using zone routing. That is, the both embrace the original idea of John Hays K7VE: the STARnet Digital Server. However there were some problems with the way things were working. There were no dashboards for these routing groups. Other than carefully watching the Last Heard webpage, you couldn't tell who was using a group. The QuadNet team didn't like the invisibility of STARnet Groups. It doesn't promote D-Star Routing. So they decided to do something about it.

We first started with a simple status page that showed groups and users, but there were problems. Inadequacies in both the StarNetServer code and the client code produced inaccurate information on the status page. As we studied the problem, we realized that as coded, the StarNetServer is quite inflexible and has nearly no interaction with the IRCDDB network it uses. The only information available to the IRCDDB network is a group's subscribing and unsubscribing callsigns and the administrative callsign it uses. You couldn't even accurately tell who was currently subscribed. Also, linking status was not available.

It also has some annoying "features", like the fact that an initial subscription logon was retransmitted to others already logged in. That's not very courteous! In ham radio, it's always best to listen before you transmit. Linking works that way, why can't routing groups? Also, you can't route to StarNetServer groups if you using a mobile hot-spot. Many said this would NEVER work and at the time, many of the QuadNet admins believed this to be true.

Based on these and other considerations, we decided that a new routing group server was needed. Early in the development, the re-coding effort began to significantly deviate from the origin code. Several of the key software units were nearly completely rewritten. At that time, we decided it was appropriate to re-brand this new effort, and we chose Smart Group Server as a name.

As it develops, some important differences are noticed. Smart Groups now interact with the QuadNet network in an intelligent way, reporting exactly who is subscribed and its linking status. It even reports how long a user will remain subscribed if they remain inactive. And this data is reliable and accurate on the ROUTING GROUPS page. So from a users point of view the big changes are: You can listen before you talk, you can see accurate status information of Quadnet sponsored Smart Group on the ROUTING GROUP page and now you can route to a Smart Group from a mobile hot-spot. Please note that the Smart Group Server code is open-source, so you can have and support your own. However you will need to develop your own dashboard for your server.

There are other important changes to the Smart Group Server that delight us. These changes are not something a user will get excited about, but it will allow us great flexibility in building up a robust global routing network for all to use. Hopefully everyone will be happy about that. If you don't think this new routing server warrants a new name, that's okay, you can call it a "routing group" and leave it at that.